William Hague would be the most likely person to take over the government in the event of the prime minister's death, former deputy prime minister Lord Prescott said today.
Tory backbencher Peter Bone has called for clarity on the order of succession were David Cameron to be killed. The Wellingborough MP told Parliament this week he did not believe deputy prime minister Nick Clegg should be first in line.
And Lord Prescott told the BBC Radio 4 Today programme he expected that if the prime minister died, the cabinet secretary would look first to the First Secretary of State as the most senior member of the cabinet.
Foreign Secretary Hague currently holds the title, while under Gordon Brown it was Peter Mandelson. Lord Prescott held the title at the same time as being deputy prime minister under Tony Blair.
Lord Prescott told Today: "(First Secretary of State) is really the position that the civil service recognise. The deputy prime minister is not a paid role, it's not a role in any kind of constitution, but the first secretary of state is.
"It is the one who is the senior of the Secretaries of State. Sometimes those positions have come together - it did with me, it did with (Michael) Heseltine. In fact, Mandelson, when he wanted to come in with Gordon Brown, Gordon Brown didn't want a Deputy Prime Minister or a First Secretary of State.
"But he obviously came to an agreement with Mandelson who chose one of those titles, First Secretary of State. In that sense, in the civil servants' eyes, it gave him seniority over (Harriet) Harman, who would have been then seen as the Deputy Prime Minister.
"The Cabinet Secretary and the cabinet would see that as the priority position though don't forget this is a coalition.
"One represents one party, one represents another - can you understand the cabinet electing Clegg as the man who is going to take over?"
Lord Prescott said the situation would not always be simple and that, under Labour Party rules, the procedures said the Cabinet should meet and nominate a successor.
He said this would not automatically mean he, as first secretary of state and deputy prime minister, would have been the choice of his colleagues.
Lord Prescott said: "If the prime minister goes, the Cabinet then would decide who should chair the cabinet until the party has an elected leader.
"That is how our process works, probably if they thought I wasn't a candidate they might have put me in the job to govern the transition."
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